- Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 17:52
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call (800) 342-3720 or 911
Westchester County Child Protective Services is responsible for investigating allegations of the abuse or maltreatment of children that are directly caused by the actions of the child’s parent or caretaker or are allowed to happen to the child by the parent or caretaker.
Are you about to have a baby and don’t want anyone to know? Baby Safe Haven provides designated 'safe places' to bring your newborn and where to call to talk to someone.
The “Protect The Kids” committee was created to recommend ways to protect the community from sex offenders and to end inconsistencies in the way they are sentenced and monitored. Making Westchester County a safe place for its children is a primary concern for us all.
Keeping children safe begins in the home. Being aware of potential hazards for your infants and children so that you can protect them is the best way to prevent injury to children. Learn more with our brochure on Safety Tips for Children (in Spanish).
The most important thing is to look for is a pattern of abuse. Just because a child has bruises does not mean that he or she is abused. Signs to look for are:
Physical abuse takes place when a child is hit, punched, slapped, whipped, beaten, or burned, and injuries such as abrasions, bruises, lacerations, bleeding, burns, or fractures occur. The physical injury is not accidental and it causes or creates a substantial risk of death , or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
- Injuries to eyes or both sides of the head or body. Accidental injuries typically only affect one side of the body.
- Frequently appearing injuries such as bruises, cuts or burns. These may appear as grab marks, human bite marks, cigarette burns
- Destructive, aggressive or disruptive behavior
- Fear of going home
Sexual abuse takes place when a child is touched by a parent or caretaker for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire; when the child is encouraged or forced to touch the parent or caretaker for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire; when a child is engaged or attempted to be engaged in sexual intercourse; forced or encouraged to engage in sexual activity with other children or adults; exposed to sexual activity or exhibitionism for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of another; permitted to engage in sexual activity which is not developmentally appropriate and results in the emotional impairment of the child; or used in a sexual performance such as a photograph or video tape.
- Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
- Injury to genital area
- Difficulty or pain when sitting or walking
- Sexually suggestive, inappropriate behavior or verbalization
- Sexual victimization of other children.
Neglect takes place when a parent who is financially able, or offered financial means or other means to meet a child’s health and safety needs, does not provide basic care such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, medication, or adequate supervision.
- Obvious malnourishment, listlessness or fatigue
- Stealing or begging for food
- Poor personal hygiene, torn and/or dirty clothes
- Need for glasses, dental care or other medical attention
- Frequent absence from or tardiness to school
- Child inappropriately left unattended or without supervision
Emotional abuse takes place when a parent or caretaker’s pattern of behavior has a harmful effect on the child’s emotional health or well being. The effect can be observed in the child’s abnormal performance or behavior and there is substantial impairment to the child’s ability to function normally due to the parent or caretaker’s conduct. For example, a child who is repeatedly isolated, frightened, embarrassed, belittled, or threatened manifests symptoms of impact such as aggressive or self-destructive behavior, inability to think and reason, inability to speak and use language appropriately, extreme passive behavior, extreme social withdrawal, psychosomatic symptoms, or severe anxiety. A mental health professional should assess the child to determine that the child’s impairment is causally linked to the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker.
How to report child abuse or neglect
In New York State all reports of abuse or maltreatment are received by the State Central Register which is located in Albany via a special telephone hotline which can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The phone number to make a report is (800) 342-3720. Calls are accepted both from the general public, who are able to remain anonymous, and from certain professionals who by law are designated as mandated reporters. Reports of abuse or maltreatment may be made for children from birth up to their 18th birthday. Each county has its own Child Protective Services Department. In order for Westchester County to begin an investigation, a report must be made to and accepted by the New York State Central Registry.
How a report is investigated
The investigation of a report is a fact-finding process which includes interviewing, observing, and information gathering. Its purpose is to protect the child, determine the validity of the allegations, evaluate any condition of abuse or maltreatment that was not reported, and determine the services necessary to ensure the protection of the child and reduce the degree of future risk to the child. Allegations fall into the four categories described below, which illustrate examples but are not all inclusive. The investigation includes an evaluation of all children in the home, whether or not they are actually named in the report. The final step in an investigation is the determination of whether the report is "indicated" or "unfounded". If some credible evidence of abuse or maltreatment exists, the report is indicated and the family is offered appropriate services. If no credible evidence of abuse or maltreatment is found, the report is unfounded and sealed. The final decision must be made within 60 days.
How to Prevent Child Abuse
Perhaps the most critical child abuse prevention strategy for parents is good communication with children. Encourage them to share concerns and problems with you. If you use day care or babysitters, screen your child's caretaker or day care provider. Make sure you have the right to drop in and visit the program at appropriate times. Read more about how to prevent child abuse.
In cooperation with New York State Attorney General's Office, Westchester County uses a nationally recognized child-finding system called Code Adam in its parks and some public buildings. The New York State Amber Alert Plan is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, broadcasters and others to immediately involve the public, especially motorists, in the search for an abducted child.
How to get Help
Many people don't know where to report suspected child abuse and some people are afraid of reporting child abuse because of possible repercussions to the children or to themselves.
You probably will be relieved to know that if you report child abuse, it is unlikely that the abused child will be removed from their home immediately. Also, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse and the abuser cannot find out who reported them.
Remember that suspected abuse is sufficient reason to make a report to authorities. You do not need proof. Your call may make the difference in the very life of a child. It's important that you understand how to respond to a child who has reported abuse.
How sexual abuse cases are handled
Westchester County has created a unit called MDT (Multi Disciplinary Team) to handle all sexual abuse cases called into the New York State Child Abuse Registry. This team is comprised of experienced child protective workers who work collaboratively with local law enforcement who jointly respond to each child sexual abuse case. MDT utilizes the Child Advocacy Center, located at the Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla, for complete forensic examination of the children and detailed interviewing. This multi-disciplined response to allegations of child sexual abuse has been very successful in the effort to protect children and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Child Advocacy Program
The Child Advocacy Program is a collaborative effort of the Westchester County Department of Social Services, the District Attorney's Office, the County Attorney's Office, the Westchester Institute for Human Development, and local Police Departments. The creation of the Advocacy Center was vital because it resolved the long standing problem of having children who have been physically or sexually abused go through numerous, separate interviews, often at different locations, causing unnecessary emotional trauma to the child. It provided a way to help minimize the trauma for the child while providing the agencies charged with protecting the child with the information they need.
When and where to call
Westchester County receives and begins investigating reports of abuse or maltreatment 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The New York State Central Register hotline is (800) 342-3720. The hotline transmits all reports to the Westchester Child Protective Services Program Office located at 10 County Center Road, 2nd Floor, White Plains, NY 10607.
For additional information, call (914)-995-5330 weekdays between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Between 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends and on holidays, call (914) 995-2099. These reports are received by Emergency Services.
If the state believes the case is credible, it will refer the investigation to the local offices of Child Protective Services. If you are a teacher, counselor, medical professional or other professional who works with the public, you may be a Mandated Reporter and are required by law to report abuse. The Mandated Report Hotline is (800) 635-1522.
You may also read more about reporting child abuse online at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.